Lady Jackets need to cut down on turnovers to reverse fortunes

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Fewer turnovers and more made shots are the focuses of the Middlesboro Lady Jackets as they prepare for the 2021 season and work to improve on last year’s disappointing 5-23 record that included a ninth straight first-round exit in the 52nd District Tournament.
“Turnovers really hurt us the last two years. Our shooting percentage has also been way down, so we have been concentrating on that,” said third-year coach Scott Overbay. “If we can make some layups and cut our turnovers down we could be in any game. If we can get our turnovers down to 15 or below a game it would make us very competitive. I’m trying to build some team confidence and bring them together.”
The Lady Jackets’ quest for improvement was dealt a blow when freshman guard Emery Glover left for Cumberland Gap, Tenn., but Overbay still likes the team’s chances for improvement with three starters returning.
Kailey Owens (14.2 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game), a 6-0 junior forward, is the Lady Jackets’ most experienced player as a three-year starter and is among the 13th Region’s best at her position.
“She can score inside and shoot the 3. Even with everything going on, she did a lot of work at home in the summer to improve her game,” Overbay said.
Grace Gent (8.7, 4.7) and Kirsten Keith (3.8, 2.4) give the Lady Jackets a senior backcourt tandem with plenty of varsity experience.
“Grace will run our team and keep everything under control at point guard. We need Grace and Kailey to be more consistent this year on a night-in, night-out basis,” Overbay said. “We just want Kirsten to have the confidence in herself to take shots. She will be asked to do even more ball-handling this year.”
Keevi Betts (2.5, 2.4), a 5-4 eighth-grader, saw considerable varsity action last season and will likely move into a starting job this season in the backcourt.
“She has very good quickness, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement in her during middle school games,” Overbay said. “She showed a lot of leadership with that team. I think she can do some things to help us.”
Overbay has several options at center in freshmen Halaya Brown, Anna Myers and Sierra Higgins.
“I need those three to step up in the biggest way to take some pressure of Owens and Gent,” he said. “We want those girls to share time at center so we can play Owens at kind of a stretch four.”
Mallory James, a junior guard, could also see action, along with sophomore guard Kamryn Keith, junior forward Aleeza Ahmad, eighth-grade forward Aieza Ahmad and seventh-grade guard Amelia Hooks.
“We’re very young, and I look for a lot of growing pains early. We have some good girls on the way (in the sixth grade), and I think they could help us as soon as next year,” said Overbay. “These girls we have now have a lot of room to improve. If they do, we have a shot to make it to the region, even though I think Bell County is the favorite in our district. We’ve put together a pretty tough schedule. We have to play people to get where we need to be.”